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Gladius
Class overview
Name:

Gladius-class heavy corvette

Builders
Operators

UNSC navy2UNSC Navy
BDS Trans Baal Defense Solutions
Rebel-Insurrectionist symbol Insurrectionists

Preceded by
General characteristics
Type

Corvette

Length

243 metres (797 ft)

Width

51 metres (167 ft)

Height/depth

54 metres (177 ft)

Mass

36,000 tonnes

Engine unit(s)
Slipspace Drive

CODEN-III SFTE

Slipspace velocity

2.9 lightyears/day

Shielding

Baal Defense Solutions' UP-182 light field dispersal generators (After 2554)

Hull
Sensor systems
  • Mark-XXIV combined infrared/RADAR arrays
  • FORESIGHT focused LIDAR electro-telescope
  • Passive long-ranged RADAR
Navigation system

UNA-assisted manual piloting

Countermeasures
  • RADAR/microwave jammers
  • Heat sinks
  • Anti-missile defence suite
Armament
Complement

None

Crew

15 sailors

Minimum crew
Passengers

None

Consumables
  • Fully stocked: 6 months
  • Emergency supplies: 2 weeks
Additional information
Era(s)
Role(s)
  • Interdiction
  • Light patrol
  • Escort
[Source]
"We had four corvettes go up against a lone cruiser once, which caught us in a raid near Green Hills. But they clearly chose the wrong fish to catch - we ran rings around them, taking pot shots at every opportunity. And the best part is, they couldn't hit us at all."
―Anonymous Insurrectionist captain.

The Gladius-class heavy corvette (hull classification symbol: FS), sometimes misclassified as a Gunboat thanks to its heavy armaments, is a line of ultra-light tonnage warships used by a number of military factions during and after the Human-Covenant War. Developed in response to the limited effectiveness of Insurrection-era designs, the Gladius is notable as it possesses an unusually-large MAC, powerful engines and a small crew with no Marine complement. These qualities mean that the corvette, while not engaging in as many roles as more traditional models, is an exceptional combat ship, inflicting a disproportionate level of damage against larger opponents. This sees the Gladius deployed in low-priority escorts, patrols and interdictions. The only flaw of these vessels is their lightly-reinforced frame left them susceptible to more powerful weapons.

Seeing field testing in 2529, a year after knowledge of the Covenant was made public, the Gladius was not an immediately adopted by the UNSC. Instead, these corvettes saw early service with planetary defence groups, who needed a more capable defender fight off larger, more threatening pirate raids. In this role, it excelled, either outright routing them or keeping them tied up until a better-equipped fleet could arrive. This proof of capability would inspire the UNSC to accept it into their fleets, phasing out the older yet still capable Mako-class light corvette with the more useful Gladius. Fighting in dozens of battles, their notable stealth capabilities would provide invaluable preparation for successful operations behind enemy lines, which would see these corvettes being updated after the war to help reestablish humanity's dominion.

Operational History

Development

Human-Covenant War

The first block of Gladius-class corvettes built in 2527 and 2528 were assigned into Admiral Sebastian T. Shelby's Eighth Fleet. Over the past four years of war, the Eighth Fleet had taken some of the worst beatings in the UNSC, going for a two hundred ship-strong fleet to under twenty of the original vessels. These corvettes came with the new flagship of the Eighth Fleet, the UNSC Victory, along with a dozen other ships to reinforce Shelby's fleet at the Outer Colony of Thorney. However, these ships would see unexpected combat when a massive Covenant fleet led by a Covenant fleet master known as "the Harbinger" attacked the colony. Though the corvettes did well, ultimately Thorney and the rest of the Eighth Fleet were obliterated by the Imperial Admiral, leading to the UNSC cancel their orders for the new corvette because of a lack of effectiveness.

Layout

"It's like flying half a ship."
―Anonymous sailor.

Unlike most smaller warships like it's predecessor, the Mako-class light corvette, the Gladius does not appear encased within a large armoured shell; instead, the hull follows a basic, almost skeletal profile around the ship's MAC, reactor and engines. This design is inspired from modern frigates constructed by SinoViet Heavy Machinery, although it followed this trend to minimise construction time and materials rather than for modularity purposes. Indeed, unlike those vessels, the armoured prow is not split in half but instead one large block, with the MAC running down the centre of this structure rather than at the top or bottom.

At the very top of the prow is the corvette's small bridge, which is only just wide enough to have the pilot and navigation officer sit side-by-side at the front. The captain sits behind them in a command chair, where they have the best view in front and to their sides. Because the bridge is so small compared to other UNSC vessels, there are only three display screens that are designed to fold up when given the order from the captain's neural interface. Instead, the command chair connects with the captain's neural interface and beams the information directly onto their eyes, allowing the captain to see statistics without a holographic projector. Behind him on the sides are the weapons and the sensors/communications officers, which sit in dedicated stations in the back corner of the bridge. Unlike most UNSC ships, there is no holotable to plan the next course of action - instead, that's housed in the room right behind the bridge, before the main armoury. There are two three-man escape pods located right behind the bridge for emergencies.

Temp
The breakdown of the corvette.

Extending below the MAC barrel is the corvette's primary communications array, which uses long-distance antenna and a high-powered Microwave receiver for receiving and decoding long and short-range communications, respectively. At the bottom is the main sensor array, a Mark-XXIV combined infrared/RADAR arrays with a FORESIGHT electro-telescope, which are attached to the lower 'spine' that runs more than half of the ship's length. Both of these sensors are much more sensitive than the norm, as they do not need to filter out much radiation coming from the Gladius itself. Further down on the main body are the protrusions for the ship's Archer missile launchers, one on each side, which are outfitted to be effective against fighters, bombers and other ships at long- to mid-range. Above these is where the main shuttlebay is located. This isn't always here, as some owners rather turn the space into a games room or a cargo-bay, and instead place a massive sheet of armour over the door. Right behind this at the top are the crew quarters, which include zero-G hammocks, a basic kitchen and the cryotubes, and it is here where the crew not assigned to any jobs can be found eating, sleeping or relaxing. A direct staircase leads to four Class-I bumblebee escape pods, two on each side, allowing for quick and easy evacuation. Further below this is the Gladius' modest cargo-bay, with an elevator and retractable stairs for the crew and passengers. This often holds satellites and parts for navigation buoys, as well as the fission fuel to keep them powered. The rest of the forward section is made up of the life-support system and capacitors for firing the main cannon, and as a result, there isn't much room for the crew to move around on board.

After the four escape pods is the technical aft section, which is where most of the engineers work. A smooth protrusion begin starts it off, and it is in this forward part where the Deuterium fuel is kept. Further back are where two of the M870 point defence guns are located, in prime position to offer defensive all but below the corvette. However, the overlapping fire leaves a massive blind spot towards the aft that can allow enemy fighters to close in on the corvette with minimal possible damage. Attached to the upper engines are also the two afterburner drives, with the back, smaller nozzle increasing the velocity of the corvette with a combined fusion-chemical mix, and a dedicated emergency chemical thruster occupying the larger front cone. The engine configuration leaves one at the bottom and a pair along the middle of the corvette, with the bottom exhaust extending the furthest. These are built around the corvette's large fusion reactor, which originally used Deuterium, however post-war models now accept the much more potent Helium-3 fuel. Resting on top of the reactor and forward of the upper fusion drives is the corvette's primary cloaking system - a PREY electronic warfare suite. This bland box can jam all nearby communications channels, issue RADAR and microwave jamming fields to fight sensor systems and if close enough, launch a cyber-warfare campaign on nearby ships, ensuring that the Gladius can only be detected by the most powerful of enemy warships. Further back from this are where the ship's consumables - food, fuel, and ammunition - are stored. A dedicated pod for ammunition exists are the very bottom of the corvette, and is protected by two M870 point defence guns to prevent it from being easily targeted. Should it ignite, the pod is designed to funnel the explosion away from the corvette, and the heaviest armour is mounted above it as well, ensuring minimal damage.

Role

Togrul-alekperov-1
Heavy strikecraft like the GA-TL1 Longsword are typical prey for the Gladius-class.

The Gladius-class corvette is designed as a workhorse of colonial defence fleets, and frequently operates alongside the Pikeman-class and Stalwart-class light frigates. In battle, it's primary role is to screen larger UNSC ships, such as cruisers and carriers, and keep them free of hostile strikecraft, missiles and other corvettes. To help with this, most of it's Archer missiles have cluster-missile warheads designed to target and clear a large number of fighters at once, along with six M870 Ramparts to shoot down missiles and strikecraft that get too close. Of course, it lacks many dedicated anti-fighter missile defences and so can be easily out-performed in this role by larger frigates. Instead, it would act in a corvette hunter role, using it's oversized MAC while sitting on the edge of its effective range taking shots of opportunity at the smaller Covenant warships. Often-times, it will act like a heavy bomber, making strafing runs on Covenant ships and firing everything it has. However, because of its size, these are considered suicidal affairs and are discouraged by the UNSC Admiralty.

Outside of battle, the Gladius' usefulness only increases. Because of their stealth-qualities and high-sensitivity sensors, these corvettes are used to patrol the fringes of Human space searching for Insurrectionist and Covenant targets, acting as yet another early-warning system. Their frequent use in counter-insurgent patrols means that they act as an emergency response unit, responding to hails for help and escorting damaged civilian ships back to the nearest colony. Despite their pitiful cargo-bays for a ship of its size, the Gladius can still fulfil the role of buoy tending, ferrying supplies to isolated stations and maintaining the UNSC's Universal Navigation Array network.

Specifications

Propulsion

Gladius Aft
The aft of the Gladius corvette, with all engines burning at full thrust.
The Gladius-class corvette is an astonishingly fast craft, capable of easily keeping up with some models of gunships and bombers. This is specifically thanks to the corvette's extremely-light mass and powerful set of engines, each which are made from different manufacturers.

The main drives are both variations of fusion drives, which work by using the heat and pressure of the main reactor to fire off their highly-combustible propellant; in layman's terms, the ship is pushed by activating nuclear devices on its aft. The first is Reyes-McLees Corporation's Mark-12 primary fusion drive. A scaled-down version of the engines used on their larger vessels such as the Marathon-class cruiser, the Mark-12 uses twenty-four independent injection-valves set around a single main exhaust, which allows for faster, more fuel-efficient travel than simply using a single exhaust. This is made more efficient with the engine being made to burn hotter and subjected to higher pressures than required, which is what gives it it's characteristic blue colour. However, what makes the Mark-12 particularly popular is that it is equipped with integral stealth bafflers; this captures the radiation and emissions given off by the engine at low power, allowing it to move without being detected. While it's too small to actually reuse the captured propellant, it can store it to be released at a safe location. The other two fusion drives, the Naoto Technologies' V5/Ultra-Light-DFR secondary fusion drives, are conventional fusion reactors that have none of these bonuses and simply push the ship forward as cheaply as possible.

Armament

Unlike most ships around its size range, the Gladius-class corvette's weapon systems are powerful enough to threaten ships as large as destroyers. Partially this is because the corvette is entirely built for combat and endurance, however, the main reason lies solely in its 20DA1C2 Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. The smallest axial coilgun that is classified as a MAC, the 20DA1C2 is a compact yet cheap weapon system that acts as the Gladius' main gun. At 120 metres long, the 20DA1C2 uses a patented 'double-action' launch system to launch a roughly 400-kilogram Tungsten-Uranium slug at up to 35,000 metres per second, totalling to 240 gigajoules being imparted into the round. This is far lower than the energy given out by a frigate MAC, but it makes up for it with it's firerate - the 20DA1C2 can charge and reset within a minute, allowing it to fire about two or even three times as much as a single frigate MAC. This makes it extremely resilient, although it's proven to be less effective on shielded targets. Nevertheless, the addition of this weapon has ensured the Gladius is a threat even to opponents many times its size, especially when deployed in numbers.

Supporting this are two pods of M58 "Archer" missile pods, two on each side. A general-purpose missile equally effective against both strikecraft and warships, the M58 is not as large as the earlier M42 "Archer", but is much more compact and easier to field in swarm tactics. However, the two pods on the Gladius are only capable of launching salvos of ten missiles at most, hardly capable to the swarms of hundreds even frigates can output. Instead, only seven missiles are fitted with high-explosive warheads, the rest being outfitted with Multiple Independently-Targeting Warheads, which utilise eleven "Medusa" micro-missiles to attack up to an entire squadron at once. A small handful of M4 decoy missiles are also carried, for distracting enemy ships that the Gladius cannot afford to engage.

The only other weapons the Gladius has are six M870 "Rampart" point defence guns, each with four 50mm barrels per turret. Covering most of the blind-spots on the corvette's aft, these are well-suited to destroying enemy fighters and missiles, especially since their barrels are designed to traverse more than 180 degrees before requiring the turret to turn around. However, these turrets are intended to also weaken incoming plasma torpedoes by firing magnetised slugs, potentially dissipating them before they can hit the corvette. They can fire up to 360 rounds per minute.

Armour and Superstructural Supports

Reactor

Countermeasures

"We're no prowler, but that doesn't mean I'll let us be sitting ducks."
―Lieutenant Tomica Ojdanič

While not technically classed as a stealth ship, the Gladius-class corvette does integrate many systems that are part of the standard loadout for infiltration vessels, making it difficult to detect on regular scans. While it has no way of masking itself physically, the vast distances of space ensure that it is very difficult to spot them even on a dedicated LIDAR scanner. Should it be spotted, the Gladius also carries a number of electronic warfare technologies to disrupt enemy targeting systems and better protect itself from much more powerful weapons which could easily obliterate the corvette in a single shot.

Located on the dorsal side of the corvette is a large electronic warfare pod, which is made up by a CAESAR-IV electromagnetic radiation jammer.

Variants

Cutlass-class attack corvette

"The new Baal Cutlass - the budget embodiment of power and toughness."
Baal Naval Works commercial.
Ambrose Refuge Trans

Introduced as a smaller alternative to BNW's successful Quetzalcoatl-class light frigate, the Cutlass-class attack corvette is a heavily-armed, better-armoured version of the Gladius-class corvette. Packing two M37 "Suppressor" 279mm naval coilguns and four M910 "Rampart" 105mm point defence guns rather than the six of the M870 "Ramparts", and a modernised MAC, the Cutlass is specifically kitted out as a corvette and frigate hunter. Armour has been upgraded across certain parts of the hull, although it is still too fragile to reliably take hits. As it's more vulnerable to strikecraft, the corvette retains the external fighter docking claws below the forward section, which are capable of holding a single GA-TL1 Longsword or equivalent for defence.

The Cutlass did not see much use from the UNSC Navy, as they preferred to use the older Gladius for both corvette-hunting and anti-fighter roles. As a result, these corvettes are ironically more popular in planetary defence fleets, who use them as a counter to increased frequency of salvaged frigates being encountered in raids. While heavier destroyers would force them to flee, they needed a high-speed pursuit vessel to disable or destroy them - a role which the Cutlass excels at.

Ships of the Line

Name Hull Classification Symbol Commissioned Destroyed Notes
UNSC Gladius
FS-641
August 8, 2530
Lead ship of the class.
UNSC Sagan Blue
FS-803
March 30, 2536
June 6, 2554
Destroyed by two DAS-class storm cutters near New Carthage.
SS Mary MacKillop
FS-1371
March 3, 2554
N/A
Employed by BDS.
SS Great Flood
FS-1401
November 2, 2554
N/A
Employed by BDS.
MSV Ambrose's Refuge
FS-1630
N/A
Commanded by Merlin Boyd, originally christened the SS Unwanted Savior, stolen from BDS after Merlin goes rogue.

UNSC Remarks

Gallery